Many salespeople aren’t even familiar with the phrase ‘free consulting,’ but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that hasn’t been victim of it. Put simply, ‘free consulting’ is the nemesis of sales. It takes what should be a seamless process between equals, and turns it into a dysfunctional relationship, where the sale is needlessly extended because the salesperson gets trapped into a vicious cycle.
So what constitutes ‘free consulting?’ It’s time that is wasted; all those activities that could easily be reduced. Just think about all those face-to-face meetings, the follow up meetings, the convoluted proposals, updated proposals, and the chasing phone-calls – it all adds up.
Worse still, it sets a poor precedent and establishes bad habits. By doing all the chasing, the power becomes badly out of synch. The salesperson starts to believe that the prospect is in charge and they are doing them a favour by buying their product or service – which is the first step on a slippery slope to reducing prices and offering free trials.
The fact is, cheapest and best are not the same thing. Customers do not want the cheapest option, they want the best. This is where ‘free consulting’ becomes even more detrimental – it takes the conversation away from what needs to be the focus all along – the value that is being added.
Here are some top tips to knock ‘free consulting’ on its head, once and for all.
- Qualify the lead So many salespeople try and run before they can walk – they become some desperate to find a prospect that anyone who shows the slightest interest gets adds to the pipeline and the salesperson spends an inordinate amount of time ‘hunting them down.’ Qualifying the leads is essential so that time is invested in businesses that are genuinely interested in the product/ service
- Don’t give it all away If you’ve provided the clients with all the answers as part of the tendering process, why would they hire you? In reality, the criterion for appointing a company is not who has all the answers, but who can add value and feels like a good fit.
- Learn to love the word ‘no’ Salespeople seem conditioned to say ‘yes’ to everything – they feel that ‘no’ equals ‘go.’ Clients respect salespeople that respect themselves. If the expectations are unrealistic, then they need to be corrected, not compounded.
- Don’t be afraid to part ways Many prospects are just window-shopping. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that they could be converted with a lot of persuasion and ‘good deals.’ The key is spotting them early, and parting ways before they put too much drain on the business’ time.
- Don’t stumble at the final hurdle Advice, intellectual property and products all have price tags. By stumbling at the final hurdle and giving into requests for free trials or price-cuts to get contracts signed the salesperson ultimately loses – and sets a precedent for future business.
By Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training in the UK, the UK’s leading sales, management and leadership training organisation.